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Attorney General of Virginia


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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

*Photos Available Here and Here*

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL MARK HERRING SECURES GUILTY PLEAS IN ILLEGAL FOX PENNING SWEEP

~ Nine plead guilty to illegally purchasing wildlife and six fox pens had their permits revoked for stocking the pens with illegal wildlife ~ 

 

 

RICHMOND (July 18, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s first in the nation Animal Law Unit has secured guilty pleas from nine individuals as part of a sweep targeting fox pens stocked with illegal wildlife. These convictions were part of a two year investigation that followed legislation crafted by the Office of the Attorney General, which limits and eventually will phase out fox penning in Virginia, a practice in which wild foxes are trapped, confined, and hunted by dogs for purposes of training, or in some cases, sport, competition, and gambling. Additionally, six fox pens in Buckingham, Lunenburg, Appomattox, Dinwiddie, King and Queen, and Brunswick have had their permits revoked or surrendered for stocking their pens with illegal wildlife.

 

“My team and I are working hard to enforce the laws that prevent illegal fox penning and illegal wildlife sales,” said Attorney General Herring. “Any individuals who participate in activities like wildlife trafficking or illegal fox penning should be brought to justice. Through our first of its kind Animal Law Unit my team and I will continue to make sure that those who commit animal crimes are held accountable for their actions.”

 

Fox penning can become unlawful when operators put illegal foxes and coyotes into a fenced in area and allow dogs to chase – and sometimes kill – the wild animals. The practice also has been known to deviate from training of hunting dogs to include gambling and competitions to see whose dog can catch the confined fox.

 

“The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) applauds Attorney General Herring and his incredible team for their work to secure convictions in these cases,” said Matthew Gray-Keeling, Virginia State Director for The HSUS. “These convictions clearly demonstrate the cruel, inhumane nature of fox penning and the illegal activity that can accompany it. We sincerely appreciate Attorney General Herring’s work to strictly enforce Virginia’s laws and shut down these illegal and inhumane operations.”

 

Those convicted are:

  • Brandon Scott McGee, 33, of Powhatan pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of purchasing wildlife in Appomattox County and was given a suspended sentence, required to relinquish fox pen operator permit indefinitely to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), and is prohibited from any involvement in fox-penning for five years. Additionally, McGee was charged with one felony and one misdemeanor count of illegally purchasing wildlife in Powhatan County and was handed a suspended sentence, a $50 fine, and will forfeit the money used to purchase the wildlife to DGIF.
  • Herman Burnley, 29, of Wingina, VA pled guilty to three separate misdemeanor charges of purchasing wildlife in Powhatan, Prince Edward and Buckingham Counties. Burnley was sentenced to 12 months with 12 months suspended for five years and is prohibited from any involvement with fox-penning for five years for each charge. 
  • Ricky Burnley, 33, of Wingina, VA pled guilty to two separate misdemeanor purchase of wildlife charges in Buckingham and Prince Edward Counties. For each charge, Burnley was sentenced to 12 months with 12 months suspended for five years, is prohibited from any involvement with fox-penning and had his trapping license revoked for ten years.
  • Christopher Powell, 40, of Appomattox pled guilty to two separate misdemeanor charges of purchasing wildlife in Appomattox and Prince Edward Counties. For each of the charges, Powell was sentenced to 12 months with 12 months suspended for five years, no involvement with fox-penning for five years, had his trapping license revoked for 10 years and has to forfeit the money used to purchase wildlife to DGIF.
  • Joseph Lewis, 84, of Dinwiddie pled guilty to a felony charge of purchasing wildlife in Brunswick County and was sentenced to five years with five years suspended for ten years and limited involvement with fox pens indefinitely.
  • Christopher Harrison, 44, of Jarrett, VA pled guilty to one felony charge of purchasing wildlife in Prince Edward County and was sentenced to five years with five years suspended for seven years and no involvement with fox pens for seven years. Additionally, Harrison pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of operating an illegal fox pen and one felony count of conspiracy to purchase wildlife in Sussex County and was sentenced to five years with five years suspended for five years and no involvement with fox penning for seven years.
  • John Tucker, 45, of Dinwiddie pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of purchasing wildlife in Dinwiddie County and was sentenced to 12 months with 12 months suspended for five years and no involvement with fox pens for five years. Additionally, his fox pen will no longer operate as a fox pen and he must relinquish his fox pen operator permit indefinitely.
  • Robert Verlander, 60, of Gloucester pled guilty to one felony count of purchasing wildlife in King and Queen County and was sentenced to five years with five years suspended for ten years, a $2,500 fine, and no involvement with fox pens for ten years. Additionally, his fox pen will no longer operate as a fox pen.
  • Sherry Lynn Hurt, 64, of Gloucester pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of purchasing wildlife in King and Queen County and was sentenced to 12 months with 12 months suspended for five years, a $2,500 fine, and no involvement with fox pens for ten years.

Through the criminal process, two pens were surrendered to the DGIF and will no longer operate as a fox pen:

  • J&M Foxhound Training Preserve in Dinwiddie, VA
  • Midway Foxhound Training Preserve in King and Queen, VA

 

Additionally, there were four fox pens that these men stocked with illegally purchased wildlife whose permit holders have had their licenses revoked and have been instructed to allow the wildlife to leave by DGIF:

  • Turpin’s Creek Fox Pen in Buckingham, VA
  • Ivy Bluff Fox Pen in Lunenburg, VA
  • Joe’s Foxhound Training Preserve in Brunswick, VA
  • Hollywood Foxhound Training Preserve in Appomattox, VA

 

Legislation pushed by Attorney General Herring and passed during the 2014 General Assembly session limits the number of fox pens in Virginia and will eventually phase out the practice. Facilities are allowed a limited number of animals according to their size, but as facilities close, their allotment will be removed from the statewide cap. No new facilities are permitted and facilities currently in operation can operate for a maximum of 40 more years.

 

The sponsor of the legislation, Senator Dave Marsden, Democrat, Fairfax County, stated in response to these actions “I applaud the efforts of the Attorney General in support of my 2014 Senate Bill 42. Working with the Attorney General and the Governor’s Office, we developed a bill to regulate and eventually phase out fox penning. Unfortunately some did not abide by the law and are now facing the consequences of their actions. Animal cruelty like this has no place in 21st Century Virginia.”

 

In 2015, Attorney General Herring created the nation’s first OAG Animal Law Unit to serve as a training and prosecution resource for state agencies, investigators, and Commonwealth’s Attorneys around the state dealing with matters involving animal fighting, cruelty, and welfare. Illegal animal fighting is closely tied to illegal gambling, drug and alcohol crimes, and violence against animals has been shown to be linked to violence towards other people. To date the unit has handled more than 750 matters, to include trainings, prosecutions, and consultations.

 

The cases were prosecuted by Senior Assistant Attorney General K. Michelle Welch and Assistant Attorney General Kelci Block from Attorney General Herring’s first in the nation Animal Law Unit with the assistance of the Offices of the Powhatan Commonwealth’s Attorney, Richard K. Cox; King & Queen Commonwealth’s Attorney, Charles E. Adkins; Prince George Commonwealth’s Attorney, Susan O. Fierro; Southampton Commonwealth’s Attorney, Eric A. Cooke; Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney, Ann Cabell Baskervill; Buckingham Commonwealth’s Attorney, E. M. Wright; Appomattox Commonwealth’s Attorney, Darrel W. Puckett; Prince Edward Commonwealth’s Attorney, Megan L. Clark; Brunswick Commonwealth’s Attorney; Lezlie Green, Sussex Commonwealth’s Attorney, Lyndia P. Ramsey; and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

 

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